One hundred years ago today, July 19, 1918, Louis Antone Ciravegna, died at Soissons in France. He was a sergeant with Machine Gun Company, 16th Infantry. Louis enlisted in the Army on Oct. 29, 1912, and served in the Philippines. He was discharged on Nov. 17, 1915. On Nov. 8, 1916, he again enlisted in the U.S. Army and was sent to Mexico, where there was unrest on the border. On June 16, 1917, he arrived in France as one of the first of the American Expeditionary Forces.
According to his Burial Case File at the National Archives in St. Louis, Missouri, Sgt. Ciravegna was hit by enemy shell fire on the morning of July 18, while advancing with his platoon at Soissons. He was hit in the abdomen and taken to the First Aid station and later evacuated to Field Hospital No 12, where he died at 3:30 p.m. on July 19, 1918. He was buried at the U.S. Military Cemetery at Curry, Aisne, France.
Louis had been cited for bravery in action on May 28, 1918. At an attack on Cautigny, when his platoon was caught in a severe bombardment of high explosives and gas shells, Louis remained with his platoon commander and assisted him under heavy shell fire in seeing that no wounded or stragglers were left behind.
His last letter home to his fiancée, Louise Fabris, was scribbled on the field of battle, a few hours before he was shot. He wrote: “The fight is on, and this is just to inform you, dearie, that I love you.” He had enclosed his citation for bravery and told her: “Keep this citation for me, dearie.”
At the time of his death, Louis’ parents Giovanni and Anna Ciravegna were living in Soulsbyville with their other two sons, John and Peter, and their daughter, Margaret.
One of the tragedies of World War I was that those who were buried in France could not be brought home until 1921. France had been so devastated by the war, and the battlefields were in such a state of turmoil, that many had not yet been identified. There was also some controversy over whether the bodies should be returned to the United States or left in France. The family of former president Theodore Roosevelt, whose son, Quentin, had died in France, believed they should be buried with their comrades. However, many families wanted to bring their sons and husbands home. Ultimately, the United States government agreed to pay all expense to bring the remains home and bury them in whatever cemetery the family requested.
The U.S. government also established military cemeteries in France for those who were unidentified or whose families wanted them to remain in France.
Louis’ remains arrived in Hoboken, New Jersey, on March 14,1921. The records show that he arrived at the Presidio in San Francisco on March 31, 1921, where he is now interred.
World War I, or the Great War as it was originally called, was supposed to be the war to end all wars and make the world safe for democracy. Unfortunately, it did neither, but the men who answered their country’s call should be remembered as the heroes they were and appreciated for the sacrifices they made.